Chicago designer Wendy Labrum. Photograph by Momoko Fritz

The Collective Questionnaire

Wendy Labrum

By Megan Deem
March 12, 2018

The Chicago decorator knows from experience: When it’s cold outside, you’ve got to turn up the heat inside

Chicago-based interior designer Wendy Labrum of Wendy Labrum Interiors knows the meaning of cold. And dark. Which makes the warm, bright, inviting spaces she creates for clients in the Windy City even more prized. “I always say my ideal design aesthetic is a really good mix of periods, as well as origins—contemporary items paired with some vintage French, vintage Italian things,” she says. “To me, design done at its best is finding that ideal mixture.”

Q: How do you do cozy without veering into cliché?

A: In the winter, lighting becomes so important, especially ambient lighting because the lights go on so much earlier. For example, it’s just about dark here, and it’s 4:30 pm. So we’ll add lamps to the décor during this season, whereas in the summer, they might get hidden away and replaced by a cool object on that console or table. Lately, I’ve been buying a lot of vintage marble lamps, especially.

In her own Chicago family room, Labrum designed a custom velvet sofa and vintage chairs reworked with purple linen and Edelman leather cushions. The commode, mirror, and table lamps are vintage, while a Cy Twombly print hangs over the sofa. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography
In her own Chicago family room, Labrum designed a custom velvet sofa and vintage chairs reworked with purple linen and Edelman leather cushions. The commode, mirror, and table lamps are vintage, while a Cy Twombly print hangs over the sofa. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography

Q: What do you consider the ideal wattage for bulbs?

A: 60 up to 75. 60 watts feels warm and comfortable. I’ll go up to 100 watts if the light is on a dimmer. And I put dimmers on all overhead lighting.

Q: Lighting—check. What else do you recommend?

A: If you’re using a natural-fiber rug, such as sisal, as a base floor covering, you could layer another carpet, like a wool one, on top of it. Then when the temperatures climb, just roll up the top rug and store it. I’ll put out more throw blankets—usually textured ones, such as faux fur. You can also change your pillow covers to ones a shade deeper and in a more winter-friendly fabric, like silk, velvet, or wool. It’s really about adding in layers, which makes a room feel more interesting, as well as cozier.

For this sunroom in suburban Lake Forest, Illinois, Labrum chose Circa lamps, chairs made by Lee Industries, and a vintage French coffee table from the 1940s. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography
For this sunroom in suburban Lake Forest, Illinois, Labrum chose Circa lamps, chairs made by Lee Industries, and a vintage French coffee table from the 1940s. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography

Q: And for window treatments? Do they need to be considered in any way?

A: They could easily be considered, especially when they’re curtain panels, as opposed to Roman shades. You could do linen in the summer, then change to something a little heavier and more textured, like velvet, for winter.

Q: Is there anything you don’t swap out?

A: I leave the artwork the same. Art does a lot to make a space bright and interesting. Add a fantastic piece of art to a wall, and it will make a space feel bigger.

Custom cabinetry is one of the highlights in Labrum’s kitchen, which also features marble countertops, a Perrin and Rowe faucet, and a Circa Lighting fixture. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography
Custom cabinetry is one of the highlights in Labrum’s kitchen, which also features marble countertops, a Perrin and Rowe faucet, and a Circa Lighting fixture. Photograph by Megan Bob Photography

Wendy Labrum’s eBay Collective favorites
The designer’s picks among the pieces for sale.

Jacques Adnet armchairs
I love the gilt bamboo legs on these chairs combined with the black tufted leather for the perfect amount of edge. Quintessentially Jacques Adnet.

French Neoclassical desk
This mahogany desk could seamlessly fit into any space—from a writing table to a nightstand. It adds functionality and interest, and the finish of the warm finish of the wood pairs so well with contemporary or traditional interiors.

Pierre Jeanneret desk chair
Pierre Jeanneret is having a moment right now for good reason—his designs are timeless, classic, and so versatile. This chair could be a perfect dining chair or, paired with a side table, could fill an empty corner and create an interesting reading nook.

Neoclassical benches
Benches are great moveable pieces to have in any living or family room. It adds functionality and interest, and the warm finish of the wood pairs so well… I like the shape and finish on this pair; I see them perched in front of a fireplace.